Charlottesville's Festival of the Photograph
12:33 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Martha Rosler's Theatre of Drones

Credit Martha Rosler. Cellular.

Charlottesville is the first city in the nation to pass a law restricting the use of drones in its airspace, and now a New York City artist has created a special show on that subject.

Sandy Hausman reports from Charlottesville.

Martha Rosler is best known for her works of protest against the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Now, she’s speaking out against the use of drones – posting a series of photographs, cartoons and text on the free speech wall in front of Charlottesville’s city hall.

"This is the perfect place to have a discussion about drones.  They appear to make war invisible, but of course in the countries that we’re bombing, and where people are being killed, they are a terror fact of everyday life. They don’t terrorize us, because we have this classic split, which we also had during the Vietnam War of over here and over there are two different worlds, and they’re not really connected.”

She’s also dismayed that so many Americans are dismissing reports of massive domestic surveillance.  It is, she says, a bit like death.

“Everyone knows they’re going to die.  Everyone knows.  Everyone dies, but we can’t actually activate that knowledge, because it’s crippling. So much of our life depends on electronic communication, that if we actually worried about it, we would be crippled, but people have to get a little more sophisticated and say, ‘This cannot be a reasonable way to keep us safe from terrorism.’”

Rosler concedes her new anti-war works are similar to what she did during the Vietnam War, but she says this country keeps making the same mistakes, and she’s a realist when it comes to change.

“There is an advancing consensus on what is acceptable and humane, and the changes we would like to see may not happen soon, but it’s not possible to stop fighting or agitating or educating – passing along the values that one would like to see in the world.”

Rosler’s latest work will be on display through July 7.